How does love make the world go round?
The question really is how doesn’t it?
Being a young, heterosexual woman and meeting what could be the man of your dreams can be a heightened part of a woman’s growth and blossoming. Life seems to come to one piece when you feel secure in a romantic relationship that, by culture, you have been nurtured to grow into having one day in your life. A young heterosexual woman from very early stages in her life conceptualises the idea of love, partnership, and marriage because this is an overpowering force in her growth. It is who she is made to be and it is where she thinks she should culminate at the peak of her life. So, when she meets him and she falls in love, everything seems right. Until she comes to the reality that she is an African woman who will never be too grown to even step out for a date with her partner without a few weeks’ notice.
The idea of love and companionship is a necessary one for a heterosexual African woman (to be more specific, a cis-het Zambian woman). At a certain age, she is coerced to put herself out there and meet men in settings that will supposedly produce potentially good husbands. But obviously, this is at the terms of her parents or guardians. Mother’s and aunts want that dream wedding and dream life for their female children, but they are not in the slightest willing to provide the child with the room and prerogative to actually extend her social circles and meet different people, to in turn have a wide range of a ‘choice’ of potential partners.
As a Zambian woman growing up SDA, it has been deliberated by at least, every one of my relatives that this potentially good husband will be found in the SDA church. I cannot negate this narrative. Marrying someone in my circle and someone I share my beliefs with is a very safe option. But it’s not the only option, now is it? At what I will describe as my developed age, I sit through family dinners and gatherings being asked constantly when I will introduce them to my partner or more so, talked into being a little bit more friendly and outgoing so that I can meet a good man. This is a great conversation until on one auspicious day, I say to my mother, that I am going out for a lunch or for a dinner or for a day trip with ‘friends’. She will be unwilling, edgy, or completely unsure about me stepping out of the house altogether. And yet, this was the necessary thing to do (in conversation) for me to be able to meet a good man.
When the ‘good’ man is here
It is a battle to deal with the scuffles of finding a partner as a woman, but it is a war when she in fact, has found this partner. She grew up avoiding the topic of men and boyfriend’s because her parents were always cautious about the topic. They chose not to discuss it because it was not something important or appropriate and frankly speaking, up until it is time for her to get married, it is still not important to discuss. So in her first stages of her brand new relationship, she hides her activities and glides through them with nothing but lies. It is a better option than suddenly sitting her parents down, who for over twenty years have not discussed anything relatively close to a boyfriend. How would she then suddenly feel the need to open up about it?
Because her parents love her too, if at all she proceeds to have this extremely Spartan conversation, the chances of three negative responses out of five will follow it. They will ask too many questions at one go and find the smallest negative response, they will find the first excuse to keep her indoors (where she belongs according to them) or they will start an even more uncomfortable conversation about the realities of men who hurt women, sex and its possible outcomes or whether it is even necessary for her to be in a relationship in the first place. This then makes it extremely difficult for the young woman to be confident in her relationship with her partner and at the same time, show her parents that she still loves them through absolute honesty.
Real life defies the narrative
When I say our parents love us too, I mean that wholly. They don’t respond the way they do because they don’t want us to enjoy the perks of our love lives, they simply do that in order to protect us. But in the moment, we don’t understand them and they don’t understand us. Here in Zambia (or possibly in other places in Africa) the narrative stands that our parents should protect us even in the most impetuous manner and that is okay because they have raised us, protected us, loved us and it will always stand that they will always be right. After all, they are the ‘true’ grown-ups right?
But real life defies this narrative because, after being our guardians and parents and protectors, they should be our friends. We must, as young women, be able to exceedingly trust in them to a point that we are able to tell them every important details of our lives. Especially that one detail they prepared us for, that is, falling in love, enjoying companionship and eventually starting our own families. Determinately we see that, if we have a truthful and almost, friendly relationship with our parents, we may actually understand their rash way of loving us. We may begin to see that they only want us to be loved the same way they love us.
So, it may be a little late for you and I, but why don’t we stay aware now, and one day, love our own children in more defined terms and in the most un-African manner that will always defy the common narrative.